Monthly Archives: April 2010

Asked and Answered: Inspired by real events

Q: I want to write a script inspired by several real-life events in my life, but I'm wondering if I need permission from everyone involved or I can just change the events enough to make it new.   If the latter, how much do I have to change so that people don't feel like it's their story, too?

A: If the events in question are from your real life, you're free to tell the story, provided you do so truthfully.  To the extent you embellish, dramatize, or fictionalize the story, you'll need clearance from all other persons who are recognizably depicted in your script, before it can be produced.  Since, as a practical matter, almost all “true story” films and tv shows do some amount of dramatization/fictionalization, this means that you'll need that permission before long.

Note that I said permission will be needed from folks who are “recognizably depicted”.  What this means is that if YOU are identified as yourself, then anybody connected to you in a significant way can also be identified. So, if you feature a scene with your 12th grade math teacher, and cast that teacher in an embarassing, misleading or false light, your ACTUAL 12th grade math teacher may have claims against you even if you've changed the names, places, etc.

So, there's no fixed amount of change which will automatically protect you.

What some writers do is  make the non-integral characters sort of “composites” of several  people, or ‘types' of people, so that no one individual can be identified as the source.

For more integral people, much will depend on how and how much they're depicted in the script.

The good news is that ultimately, the studio, production company, or distributor will make the final decisions on whose permissions are required and whose aren't.  Still, it's best if you go into production with all your legal ducks in a row.

The help of an experienced entertainment lawyer will ensure that you have a marketable, produce-able script. The investment you make in getting good legal advice at the outset will be far less than the expense incurred later, when you're trying to close a sale, or release the film.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for readers’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.


Thinking of Producing it yourself? subscribe to my FREE e-course “6 ways to Finance A Feature Film” by visiting https://firemark.com/minicourse

Asked and Answered: Protection for a game.

Q; I'm developing a game which is an original idea and is based on a film that I did (wrote, produced, directed) and on scripts that I'm working on.  I've register in Mexico but I know I need to register further in the US.

What is the best way to register games ?

Which is the most inexpensive way to do so?

A: “Games”  encompass a very wide variety of technologies, so it's difficult to answer this question without knowing more.

Generally, speaking, Many types of games may be registered for copyright, patent, trade secret, and even trademark protection, depending on what's being protected.

Copyright law protects the original expression of ideas, such as the text of instruction manuals, artwork of a game board, displays, music, game pieces, play cards, etc.  Copyright law also protects computer code, to a certain extent, so this may apply for video and computer games.

Patent law can protect novel, non-obvious systems, methods and processes which accomplish something (such as a  particular newly invented method of game play).  Patent law may also protect software methods and processes, as found in many video/computer games.

Trade Secret protection covers non-public information (i.e., “secrets”).  Even a non-patentable method or algorithm encrypted and embedded in a computer program may be protected against misappropriation by others.

Finally Trademark law may protect the title of a game, the distinctive design of a game board, playing pieces, etc. (think, for example of the Monopoly ® or Trival Pursuit ® boards.)

The “Best” way to protect a game is to seek and obtain all of the appropriate forms of protection.  Unfortunately, Patent and Trademark protection can be costly to obtain, and require some maintenance.  Copyright registration is relatively inexpensive, and trade secret protection costs nothing, except the effort to ensure secrecy.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for readers’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.


Thinking of Producing it yourself? subscribe to my FREE e-course “6 ways to Finance A Feature Film” by visiting https://firemark.com/minicourse

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